VILNIUS – Berlin backs the Lithuanian government's pragmatic and realistic attitude in its bid to ensure the safety of the Astravyets nuclear power plant soon to be completed in Belarus, Germany's new ambassador to Lithuania says.
"Germany warmly welcomes the Lithuanian government’s pragmatic and realistic approach. Chancellor Merkel has publicly affirmed this stance when President Nauseda visited Berlin this past August," Matthias Sonn said in his written response to BNS questions.
"As soon as you define the issue as one of nuclear safety and security, perhaps also as one of trans-border energy markets, all parties concerned can find a realistic focus, dealing with open questions of security in a practical way," the diplomat added.
According to the ambassador, the implementation of the se-called "stress tests" will play a key role in this case.
"The ENSREG List of recommended measures will of course play an important role in this work. Nuclear power plants are a factual reality we should deal with in just such a realistic way – whether we like them or not," he said.
The Germans understand Lithuania's concern over the nuclear facility's safety very well as there are nuclear power plants operating close to German borders as well, the ambassador said.
"In such a policy framework of constructive realism, the German government will support Lithuania’s efforts to effectively minimize nuclear risks wherever appropriate," the ambassador said.
Representatives of the Lithuanian government have recently started gradually changing their rhetoric on the Astravyet's NPP as they previously stressed that it could not be built and now speak more about its safety.
Ex-Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said last summer that "no power plant can operate" in Astravyets" and that "it's important to seek complete shutdown of the Astravyets power plant", adding that any cooperation with Belarus on the power plant's safety issues would mean "the power plants' legal recognition and that we are tying our hands".
Nauseda, who assumed his position in July, has spoken in his speeches of the need to pool support to ensure nuclear safety and environmental protection and has not ruled out any dialogue with Belarus. The president also backs the position that Lithuanian should stop buying electricity from Belarus once the nuclear facility is built.
Since early 2016, Lithuania has been seeking convincing EU member states to join the electricity embargo but other Baltic states have not taken such steps. Experts acknowledge that electricity from Astravyets could theoretically enter the common market via Russia and Latvia.
The Belarusian authorities say the power plant could start operating in the first quarter of 2020 and they reject Lithuania's criticism over safety standards.